11 September 2017 – Hidden Rush

Despite being called in yesterday, the Rendezvous was dead.  We barely had any customers despite the weather clearing up – the guests the bosses predicted just didn’t show.

Turns out, they were waiting for today.

We only had Fries, Grill and Thai open, with Mexican being permanently closed until winter now, and there was just three of us running the front, fully expecting it to be quiet and we’ll spend the day cleaning to occupy ourselves.  I don’t even do much prep because we have more than enough to get through a normal day – I just do one kale salad.

When we open, it’s as expected.  Completely dead.  Only Grill gets customers, and after 30 minutes I decide to take my break since Thai isn’t getting any business.  When I return however, there’s a line of 5 people.

…And that pretty much describes the rest of my day.  There was almost never a quiet moment – I was lucky to get five minutes to refill the vegetable options or cook more noodles.  The guys on Grill had helped me prep and made a full tray of noodles, but by 2 they were all gone and I had to frantically cook some more before another customer requested it.  The kale salad also vanished, which is almost unheard of even on busy days – never have I been so grateful to do prep, I kind of wished I’d done another one.

The person I felt most sorry for though was our hotline prepper.  She’d been expecting an easy day, but she was on a constant rush.  Normally we have backup items cooked so there’s no wait, but because we’ve not been busy, we’ve been working on a ‘tell me when you’re down to half/a third and I’ll start cooking’ system to save on waste.  It takes 10-15 minutes to cook a fresh batch of generally anything, so you can only do it on slow days.

Needless to say, when you have no backups and have requests for chilli, salmon, chicken, pork belly and meatballs all at the same time, there’s a bit of a rush.

At one point, I’m out of all proteins except tofu, because it only takes 2 minutes from me telling her I needed a refill to empty chicken, pork and meatballs.  Even when she manages to get them out, I’ve got 3 more things I need a refill on, as well as Grill looking for additional bacon.  Woman didn’t get a second to herself.

We were supposed to consider staying open until 3:30, but thanks to the busy rush we’re tragically short on manpower and going to need all the time we can get, so I close at 3:00 as usual, and immediately start doing some prep after clearing out the dirty trays.  We’re completely out of papaya slaw, which wasn’t even on my prep list this morning, we had 3 tubs this morning, and it’s all gone.  I don’t have time to do it completely, but I did manage to core them for tomorrow, as well as prepping another tub of gai lan, red kale and green kale.  Making the slaw and kale salad will have to be Thai’s job tomorrow.

Honestly, I feel really bad about how I handled today.  I just struggle under stressful conditions, and working on a station that I’m only competent on solo while having to make 4-5 bowls at a time, often running out of food faster than it can be replaced is extremely taking.  The worst was a huge family of Chinese guests who wanted seven bowls but couldn’t seem to agree on what they wanted – my supervisor ended up taking over and getting them to agree on chicken as a protein after I’d suffered nearly 3 minutes of just getting them to agree on the contents of 2 bowls.

In addition, I couldn’t get to the hotline prepper at the best times, I didn’t have enough prep, and I felt I got in the way of my supervisor way too many times, especially considering the Grill and Fries seemed to handle the rush perfectly fine.  Although that’s not really fair – Grill EXISTS in a state of permanent rush, so they’re more used to handling it.

It’s been an exhausting day, and we’re a little baffled at just how busy it was.  Where did all these people come from?  It takes so long to clean everything up at the end that we end up holding the Peak to Peak up while we try and get there – we’re supposed to be on at 5:15, but I don’t think that gondola stopped until 5:30 at least.

Feel a little guilty that so much prep has been left for tomorrow, but unless we get a crazy rush again, they should be fine.

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9th September 2017 – The Blackcomb Ascent

Yesterday Whistler was deluged by constant rain, so I spent my day catching up with my blog and some other writing.  Today I’m working at the Feast again, but I want to do something with my morning.  When I look outside, the weather is cold, but dry.  There is a 65% chance of rain on the weather app, but I decide to take the chance and try my luck at completing the Blackcomb Ascent.

I completed the Big Burn trail a few weeks ago, but now that the chair lift is shut down, I need to complete it again in order to get to the Heart Burn trail.  Considering how much it took out of me the first time, I’m kind of dreading it.  The weather isn’t encouraging either, managing to look fairly ominous at the chance of rain.  The weather app suggests I’ll be fine until the afternoon though, and I know if I don’t go now I never will, so grit my teeth and push on.

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To be honest, without the vicious heat and humidity of the earlier summer, the Big Burn trail is a lot easier than I expected.  With the cool air I’m making good time, getting to the chairlift changing station in less than half the time it took me before.

The downside?  It’s started to rain. Heavily.

It’s been raining for a while, but the Big Burn is under thick tree cover, so I never even noticed.  The Heart Burn trail wouldn’t give me that benefit.  Most of the Heart Burn is on open ground, or very sparse woodland.  However, with the chairlift closed, my options are either to keep going, or head down a mountain that has a warning recommending you don’t go down in the rain, so I head on up.

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It is definitely a challenge – I have a raincoat and it performs admirably, but after an hour of constant rain it’s starting to struggle, as are my shoes.  Not to mention the water brings an added chill, and that makes me hungry.  All that keeps me putting one foot in front of the other is the mantra ‘there’s food at the top.’

Not that it’s all bad.  The views (that I can see outside of the cloud) are amazing, and the trail is nowhere near as steep as Big Burn, so I even manage to run or jog sections of it. I also get a surprise midway through when I spot a castle hidden in the middle of the forest.

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This is part of the Adventure course for kids in winter, so I’ll have to explore it once the snow makes it accessible again.

After about 3 hours since I started at the foot of the Big Burn, I finally make it to the Rendezvous restaurant, and blessedly drag myself to the counter for hot chocolate and food.

I’m so happy to be up, but it doesn’t take long to realise the worst part of this plan.  No chairlift means I have to travel via the Peak to Peak, and then down the gondola.  It’s going to be at least 40 minutes to get home while wearing wet clothing.  Needless to say, I spent most of my time on the gondola shivering, and then all but bolt up to my flat for the hottest shower I can stand without burning my skin.

I only get an hour or so to warm up and relax, because I’m on the Feast again.  The weather had affected the numbers, and we’re only having one sitting of just over 100 people.  However, we’ve also developed a leak in the serving area, right smack bang where the dessert table normally stands, so the staff have to get creative with the curtains – helped by us only putting out half the normal servings given how quiet it is.

All things considered, it was a really quiet day.  We had more than enough people to stay on top of the plates – most of the night I was coming into the dish pit with only one plate or a cup.  On the plus side, this meant everyone was out of the building at 8:30 and didn’t have to rush to get the place prepped for the morning.

I’ve also been approved for the rest of the Feasts this month, so it’s a guarantee of 4-5 extra hours each week.  This in conjunction with my attempts to get on the Dead Season’s cleaning crew means I should keep myself financially solvent even after the Turkey Sale and into winter.

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6th September 2017 – Not Again…

It’s back…

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So on the fifth there was a fire in Pemberton.  Nothing big but enough to make the sky smoky.  The next day the smoke from down South has made its way to us, and there’s a giant smoke cloud settling over the top of Whistler.  We’re already dead now that summer’s over, but this is wiping out even the small number of customers we’d get.

As it is, Jess gets sent home early and Eli and I are left in charge of Grill and Thai.  I don’t think we served more than ten people outside of staff.  I spend most of my day deep cleaning the salad bar and shelves, while the schedule gets brutally cut for tomorrow.  We’re not even opening Mexican since the customers don’t justify the amount of cooking required.

Tomorrow ends up being as bad as expected.  Despite having put out the fire in Pemberton, we now have all the smoke from down South heading upwards and coating the valley in the smog I’ve grown to hate.  As a pre-emptive strike, I start deep cleaning the hot boxes, spending a good portion of the day on a stepladder scrubbing the tops and polishing the sides so they’re ready for when we close.

The one bright side is this smoke shouldn’t be sticking around.  There’s rain forecast for Friday/Saturday, which isn’t fantastic since those are my days off, but rain ALWAYS destroys smoke, and it’ll clear everything up for our last full week.  If the weather does indeed turn out for the worst, I will be at the library, catching up on, well…this.

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4th September 2017 – Farewell Chairlift

Today is kind of a sad day.  Since the traffic is way down and hours are being cut, it’s no longer financially feasible to have both Whistler Gondola and the Wizard Chair running.  So as of tomorrow, our chair lift will be shut down until winter, functioning only for repairs and tests.  We’ll instead have to travel to Whistler via their gondola, sign in at the Roundhouse, then hop over on the Peak to Peak.  We’re losing nearly half an hour of prep time thanks to this, but with the reduced guests we don’t need to do as much prep.  Still it’s rather sad to get on the chairlift knowing that this will be the last time for several months.

It’s the last day of the Labour Day weekend, and we’ve still got a lot of people in Whistler dragging out the last day of summer before they head home.  As such we’re kept to a fairly constant customer line, although it’s never hectic outside of 12:30-1:30, the lunch rush time.  In fact, we’re fairly certain we’ll have an easy time clearing up at 3:30 thanks to us being so quiet.

How foolish we were.  At 3:10, when we were 20 minutes from closing, we were set upon by a small army.  One minute we have two people in the queue, a minute later there’s THIRTY people, most of them Indian, clearly travelling as a family or as a tour group.  Normally this isn’t too much of a problem, even at this time of day, except the two people we were serving suddenly found their friends rushing from the back of the queue to the front, and asking us to add to their order.  Even though we’d asked them if they wanted anything else before we started putting on toppings, we hadn’t given them their food, and so had to give them what they wanted.  Didn’t seem too bad, just another burrito…

Which then turned into 2 burritos…

…And a portion of tacos…

…And you know what, can you add another 2 burritos as well?

THIRTY people waiting in line and the queue jumpers managed to delay everyone with 4 burritos and a portion of tacos just because we hadn’t ‘technically’ finished serving their friends.  Thank God our supervisor and someone from grill came over to help, because we needed someone on the hot plate while three of us handled the conveyor-belt line of orders.  Our supervisor hadn’t even expected it – he’d just come out to grab something only to step back at a queue that dwarfed the grill’s (which NEVER happens).

Didn’t help that just about everyone wanted tofu or fish, both of which need to be cooked, and we ran out of rice…something we’d been asked at 3 if we’d need more, but had insisted would be fine (1/4 full for 30 minutes should have been perfectly okay, but clearly, we tempted fate).  Not entirely sure how the hot line managed to get us rice so quickly, but kudos to them.

Once we’d finally been able to close up, and all the other sections were cleaned, I headed downstairs to change, and then headed for the Solar Coaster for one sombre last ride.  I was kind of hoping to see a bear, but they were all absent as I headed down.

It’ll be strange not taking this chairlift anymore.  Next time we’re on it, there’ll be snow on the ground and we’ll be in full winter gear.  Going to be quite the different experience.

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3rd September 2017 – Labour Day

It’s the last weekend of summer!  On the 5th the chairlifts on Blackcomb will be shut down and we’ll have to travel via Peak to Peak to work, while traffic will slow to a crawl, and staff will have to fight for hours.

Until then though, we need to get through today.  It’s the last weekend of the school holidays here, so everybody has come up the mountain.  In the mornings, we have to mass produce everything, and everyone has their lunch early, because come 12:30, it’s a fairly constant stream.

This is nothing compared to what it’ll be like in winter, but it is a good test run for how the Mexican station handles when there’s no time to rest.  Considering how dirty and how hectic it can be on a quiet day, I think it’ll definitely keep me on my toes when I don’t have time to clean up between guests.

Despite it being a busy weekend, I’m able to get out at 4:30 since we have plenty staff, which is great because I’m working the Feast tonight.  They don’t need me in till 5 instead of 4, so it meant I could clean Mexican and then get in just as the Feast is in its final stages of prep.

This is the last Sunday the Feast runs this year, and it’s a sell out.  We’re expecting 300 people in the first sitting, and 200 for the last.  That’s huge compared to all the other Feast’s I’ve worked, so everyone needs to be in top form.  For once I’m not helping carve, and will be on the floor bussing the Glacier View and Elbow Room again

This is chaos.  Despite having quite a few staff on, I can’t stay on top of the plates.  There’s one table in Glacier View that’s so busy I could have bussed it and it alone and still never stopped.  Trying to do both rooms is impossible, even with help.

The other issue is high chairs.  With so many people, there are a lot of young children, and the seats are in high demand – we have a waiting list of people desperate to get their hands on one.  We only have five, and there’s about 8 people looking for one.

As it turns out, the full house has caused another problem.  Those stocking the Feast generally find that the over 35’s eat mostly desserts, while the under 35’s eat the meat, but there’s no way to know what age group will be the majority at any sitting.  The 5:30 sitting was mostly elderly people – and by 6:30 they’d gone through the entire stock of whipped cream.  ALL OF IT.  We had planned enough to make it through 2 ½ hours and it was gone in one.  We also went through 12 pecan pies – they vanished so quickly the person on desserts says she would put one out, take the second empty tray to the back, and when she returned with a fresh one, the one she’d just put out would be empty.

Ironically, the 7:00 sitting was mostly under 35’s, and as such we started to run out of meat.  It had to be heavily rationed just to get through the day – staff on dinner break weren’t allowed any because of the numbers.

While I was bussing my two sections however, I got a request to come and help with the Feast room from another busser, and was flabbergasted when I saw it.  I was struggling to keep my sections clean but I’d been doing a fairly good job – but every table here had plates stacked up.  It was as if there hadn’t been a busser at all for at least 30 minutes.  Took us several trips with bussing trays (which we’re not meant to have out unless the table has been vacated) to get it under control, and I had to flee back to my section to keep it from doing the same.

It wasn’t until everyone was heading back down In the gondola that I learned just why that bussing area was so hectic, as my co-worker from Roundhouse was happy to rant about it.  He’d been bussing the patio area outside, only to come in and see the dozens of plates starting to stack up.  When he finally tracked down the girl meant to be bussing the area, she was in the dish pit.  Her excuse?

“I didn’t feel like bussing today.”

…So she’d just stayed in the dish pit, not even trying to find someone to cover her, letting two of the busiest places just go under with plates.  He started trying to clear the area, only to get chased back to his own section, and eventually they either wrangled the girl into her station or got someone else to do it with help from me.  Hearing this is common with the Roundhouse though – by the end of the summer people start pushing their luck.  No wonder they need help.

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1st September 2017 – The High Note Trail

Now that I’ve recovered from the Plague that knocked me out flat for a week, I am getting up this stupid trail even if it kills me.  I’m working the Feast shifts on the 2nd, so I need to do it today so I don’t find myself rushing.  The second the gondola is open, I’m on it, heading straight for the top of Whistler, only stopping to go to the Roundhouse Deli to make a sandwich for lunch.  They have a make-your-own deli stand, so I can avoid the sauces I don’t want considering how long it’ll be till I eat it.  My one complaint is how much it cost – no sandwich should cost $14+.  If I didn’t have the 50% discount for staff, I wouldn’t have bought it.

The High Note trail is not a full loop, as it starts and ends at the Whistler Summit the end of the Harmony Meadows trail.  After looking at the map, I decide to take the Peak Express chairlift to the peak of Whistler, since it’ll mean less uphill climbing.

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I haven’t been to the summit since the start of the summer, and damn but it looks different now that all the snow has gone.  The giant snowfield has vanished, the Nestle Shack is open (and I wave to my roommate who is now the unfortunate soul stuck up here) and they’ve started construction on a suspension bridge they’re building for next season (which has wrecked on the easy loops on the summit).

The first part of the High Note from this side is closed off due to construction as well, so you have to get down via a maintenance road.  When you get onto the trail, it’s pretty vicious in how steep it is.  I’m grateful to have grabbed the hiking stick when I left the Roundhouse, because we haven’t had rain in weeks and the ground is spectacularly dusty.  I fall one, naturally at a place that ends with an almost sheer cliff drop, and decide to start going down a lot slower.

By the time it flattens out, I find a clearing where people are reading or having lunch, and I kick myself for not bringing a book.  The view is awesome, and this would not be a bad place to spend some time.

As you head around the mountain, the trail starts to narrow, eventually resulting in the official entrance, which you get to by crossing the bike trail, and then start hiking along the mountain edge.

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After maybe an hour, I managed to make myself about 1/3 of the way there when I arrived at the viewing spot for Cheakamus Lake.  I’ve never been down to the area mostly because I don’t really take the buses, but the lake is a beautiful shade of blue – the kind that until I came to Canada didn’t realise water could come in outside of the tropics.

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I spend a little too long as this section as I decide to grab lunch, mainly because I can see it’s going to be an upwards climb after this point, and I’m not wrong.  We have chains, ropes, and even a makeshift metal bridge in order to navigate round the mountain.

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After thirty minutes, I make it back down to a flat area, where there are options to split off into the Half Note trail (the shorter route back) and the option to do the Musical Bumps trail – the hardest one available given the sign post warning of the length and threats facing hikers that take it on.  I’m not even going to pretend I’m attempting it, and keep heading down the High Note towards my next checkpoint, Symphony Lake.

By the time I reached the lake, the temperature has gotten a lot higher than I expected.  I’ve got sun cream, but it also means I’m going through my water a lot quicker than I expected.  I’ve still got about 90 hours to go, and I’m not sure I have the water to do it comfortably.  As such, Symphony Lake looks REALLY appealing for a toe dip.

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The next leg of the hike is once again uphill, but the good news is once I’m over this one, I’m back at Harmony Lake and just a stone’s throw away from Roundhouse and some more drinking water.  Course, when I hit Harmony Lakes, I get distracted by some of the locals.

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I think these are whisky jacks, but I’m not certain.  All of them are very interested in what’s left of my lunch though.  Once I’ve ripped up the tomato and ham and bread into small enough pieces, it’s not hard to coax them over to say high.  There’s at least four of them flying around, all in varying states of friendliness and curiosity.

In the end, thirst is what pulls me away, and I struggle up the final uphill trek to make it back to Roundhouse, happy to guzzle down nearly an entire bottle of water and relax in the restaurant before heading back down the mountain.

It’s taken me over an hour longer than I’d expected, hiking for 4 1/2 hours in temperatures a lot higher than expected, and I’m exhausted, so decide I won’t do anything else with the day.  I had considered renting a bike, but I really wouldn’t be able to appreciate it with my legs in the state they are now.

I had planned on doing some more hiking of Blackcomb on the Saturday as well, but this hike takes so much out of me that I’m a wreck, and given that I have to work the Feast, I decide that it’s probably safer to stay in the village.  Hopefully I’ll manage to make it to the Ascent Trail and the Decker Loop before they close in September.

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30th August 2017 – Zoolympics

This morning I have to be at the chairlift half an hour early, as I’ve agreed to help clean Glacier View Lodge’s dish pit and kitchen walls.  They’ve recently had all the kitchen floors redone, which meant all of the equipment has been moved out…for the first time in 25 years, so you can imagine how bad the walls behind the sinks and the dishwasher were just from stuff that slipped down the edges.

Glacier View Lodge is a pretty awesome restaurant that only opens in winter, because it’s a ski-out only building.  You can get down via a chair lift from Rendezvous, but the only way out is to ski, so in the Summer it’s closed and completely inaccessible to the public.  Which means I am one of a very small number who will ever get this photo.

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There were three of us in addition to our boss, Candace and Damon, and we were fitted with masks, grime cleaner and orange degreaser so we could attack the dish pit walls.  It was expected this job would only take 3 hours…but 2 ½ hours later we’re taking a break before we attack the sink area, which we are clearly not getting done before we have to head back up to Rendezvous for the rest of our shift.  There’s going to have to be a return crew to finish things off.  The sink area was by far the worst part of the building.  This is what one of the walls looked like now that the sink had been removed.

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Half an hour later, we’d succeeded in making it look not exactly spotless, but much better than it did, before we had to head back.  A team will have to come in next week to finish the job.

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During our cleanse, Candace also invites me to join her team for Zoolympics, and honestly, I had completely forgotten we needed teams so was happy to join.  Their theme is Biker Chicks, so I need to come up with an outfit after work.  Which will be fun considering I’ll have less than an hour and all my leather/goth gear is in the UK.

Today I’m on the grill making burgers, and I’m thankful that it’s a quiet day.  I’ve only been on this station once before and it’s by far my least favourite to work on.  For one thing, you have to cook the burgers all the way through, and the bun’s take forever to toast.  You also have to keep an eye on the fry section, and it’s very easy to get clogged up with two lines if you don’t master multi-tasking quick.  This is also hindered by us having a new type of fries, and I’m still learning to tell when they’re ready before becoming overcooked.

Manage to get through the day without destroying anything more than a burger bun though, and immediately head home to shower and dig through my limited wardrobe.  Back home this would be child’s play, but here it’ll require more effort to pull off ‘Biker Chick.’

In the end, I dig out the Timberland winter boots I had waiting for winter, jeans, a checked shirt, some key shaped earrings, a Pokémon necklace and spiked up my hair with some gel, before shoving my purple bandanna around my neck and calling it success.

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The Zoolympics are being held just a few minutes away at the bar/building called 18 Below – which is where we had our food safety training and is normally closed during the Summer.  When I get there, it’s clear Biker Chicks aren’t the only ones getting into things, we’ve got some kind of Hawaiian shirt team, a Denim Team and a Plaid Team.

There will be several different rounds for the Zoolympics.  Events will be Beer Pong, Quarters and Flip Cup.  Beer Pong I know of – throwing a ball in the hopes that it lands in a cup.  Once all cups are gone you win.  Quarters involves throwing a quarter against a table trying to get it to land in a cup, and Flip Cup is managing to flip a cup 360 by hitting the edge.

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We’re first in the Beer Pong event, and damn but my team is HOPELESS at this.  We just cannot get a single point, despite having a self-proclaimed pong champion in our team.  The blatant cheating from the other side doesn’t help either (one member grabbed my ball before it would have landed in a cup, despite the fact that it hadn’t bounced).  We end up losing, and then head on to Quarters.

I’ve never played, but seems simple enough.  We have to fill our cups about a quarter of the way (in accordance to my non-alcohol rules, I’m on fizzy drink as a substitute), drink it, then toss a quarter into the cup.  Only when the first person succeeds can the next person drink and attempt it themselves.

To start with, we struggle.  The other team gets an early lead while one of our players struggles with the quarter.  But once we get midway we have two instant successes, and we take them on neck and neck to win the round.  Riding that high, we got sent back to Beer Pong again…and the shouting match involved while we continued to fail was legendary.

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I break off at this point, because anyone not playing Beer Pong was taking part in a voluntary activity, water balloon shotput.  The bosses had a bunch of water balloons, and whoever could shotput the furthest would win a t-shirt.  I tried…but was utterly hopeless, especially compared to some of the arms in the Rendezvous.

When I return, the beer pong had found itself a referee, and we end up going to sudden death to finish it since we’ve been in a stalemate for nearly ten minutes regarding the cups, and lose.  Some of the team have a go at the shotput, and then we head over to flip cup.

This is the one activity I struggled with the most, mainly because I had what way the cup needed to flip backwards.  Once I solved that problem I got a lot better in practice.  For this one you had to fill your cup nearly ¾ of the way, and for a lot of people that was asking a lot, because the beer/cider was pretty lousy and everyone had already drunk quite a bit.

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Our team put up a valiant effort, but in the last round, the opposing team beat up to a flip cup, and we had yet another loss to our name.  We attempted to claim back some dignity in the next game of Quarters, but despite getting stuck second person in and managing to catch up so we were only one person behind after a two person lead most of the game, our opponents won and left us quite decidedly in last place.  As a reward, we’re forced to wear ‘dunce’ caps, which are actually party hats and make us feel rather pleased at losing.

Technically there should have been a few more games, but by this point everyone is so drunk it’s decided to count the points and do the final race then and there while everyone still has the faculty to go down into the village to continue the night.  This is a relay race, where a member takes their (empty) cup to the table at the end of the room, gets a quarter into the cup, then runs back for the next member to follow.  The team in the lead gets a 20 second head start, the second team 15, the third team 10, and so on.  Despite that handicap, we do pretty well.  We don’t come last, and amazingly, it’s the fourth-place team that actually comes away with the victory.

It’s about 10pm by the time we all stumble out into the night, and although most people are heading to a bar or club of some kind, I choose to retire with a few others since without the games, my enjoyment of the evening is going to diminish.

Although I do find it quite amusing – I have the late shift tomorrow, starting at 11 instead of 9:30.  Who on earth gave the non-alcoholic the later shift when everyone in tomorrow will be complaining of a hangover?

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